This multiyear, cross office effort is one example of Cornerstone Research’s pro bono program leading to meaningful change for children in need.
Retained by Morrison & Foerster
In 2021, eleven years after this case was filed, the parties reached a settlement that provided groundbreaking rate increases to foster care families and substantial changes to rate-setting processes. Plaintiff counsel had retained Greg Eastman of Cornerstone Research to evaluate the foster care maintenance rates paid by the State of New York to foster parents. Dr. Eastman’s recommendations were included in the settlement.
For the first time, foster care maintenance rates in New York State will be determined using a methodology that accounts for costs as defined in the Child Welfare Act.
This case was filed in July 2010 on behalf of the Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition of New York. One of the main economic issues was whether the rates paid by the State of New York to foster families were sufficient to cover the costs of caring for children as defined by the Child Welfare Act (CWA). Dr. Eastman found that New York underfunded its foster care programs with the reimbursement rates given for both New York City and across the state. Dr. Eastman also demonstrated substantial limitations in the opposing expert’s data and analysis.
Key provisions of the settlement include:
- An increase of more than 40% in the monthly reimbursement of expenses for children in foster care.
- An increase of 25% in support of the care of children with special needs, and implementation of a new “extraordinary” rate for children who require full-time care, such as those with the most serious medical conditions.
- An annual adjustment of all rates to keep them in line with inflation.
As part of his analysis, Dr. Eastman reviewed the MARC Study, an academic study that calculated minimum foster care maintenance payment rates. He then compared New York State’s rates to the estimated cost of providing a CWA standard of care according to the MARC Study. He found that New York’s maintenance payments were significantly below estimated CWA costs.
Dr. Eastman further opined that New York did not a have systematic methodology to determine minimum foster care payments at either the state or county level. Dr. Eastman recommended introducing a requirement that “minimum payments [be] set equal to the maximum maintenance rate,” which would appropriately increase foster care payments by the counties. The settlement includes a provision requiring that legislation be proposed to set these minimum rates.
Dr. Eastman also found that New York lacked a reasonable framework for making annual adjustments for inflation. He proposed a system for future rate increases tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Again, the settlement agreement included this recommendation, and going forward reimbursement rates will be adjusted annually using the All Items CPI.
“Cornerstone Research is a valued partner in many of Morrison & Foerster’s litigation matters. We were extremely grateful that Dr. Eastman and his team provided their economic expertise pro bono to help the Coalition and New York foster kids win this groundbreaking settlement.”
—Adam J. Hunt, Morrison & Foerster